EPA Seeks Bids To Clean Up Uranium Mines, Officials Warn Private Groups After Migrants Stopped

Apr 19, 2019

US Authorities Issue Warning After Group Stops MigrantsAssociated Press

U.S. authorities are warning citizens not to take the law into their own hands after a group patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border stopped hundreds of migrants when they crossed into southern New Mexico this week.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued the warning through social media Friday, saying interference in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences.

Several hundred migrants crossed into New Mexico within a 24-hour period Tuesday. That included 360 people who the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico contends were held at gunpoint near Sunland Park.

Video of Tuesday's encounter shows members of United Constitutional Patriots telling the migrants to sit while authorities were called. Group spokesman Jim Benvie says members never pointed guns at the migrants and they weren't forced to stay.

New Mexico Reaches Deal To Settle 32-Year-Old LawsuitAssociated Press

A recent settlement outlines a path to ending a 32-year-old lawsuit in New Mexico.

The state on Thursday reached a preliminary settlement in the class-action Jackson lawsuit over the rights of developmentally and intellectually disabled individuals.

The state says it will take roughly a dozen actions within the next 18 months and provide quarterly data reports intended to demonstrate "reasonable progress."

New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel says she is confident the department will meet its commitments within the proposed time frame, work that will include hiring additional state investigators and nurses, as well as significant reallocation of funds.

At issue is the well-being of 241 New Mexico residents, the remaining population of two now-shuttered, state-run facilities at Fort Stanton and Los Lunas.

The lawsuit is named for lead plaintiff Walter Stephen Jackson.

County Declares State Of Emergency Regarding ImmigrationAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

A southern New Mexico county is demanding that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham use the National Guard to re-open Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints that were closed last month.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Otero County on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, noting the need for open checkpoints to stop drugs and illegal activity at the border.

Otero County Commission Chairman Couy Griffin says if the county's demand is not met in one week's time, it will provide its own security for the checkpoints. Griffin also threatened taking legal action against the state.

Governor's office spokesman Tripp Stelnicki says the National Guard "does not and would not operate federal checkpoints."

Checkpoints in the area shut down last month, as agents were pulled to help process an influx of migrants claiming asylum at the border.

'La Llorona' Movie Promotion With Mexican Healers Draws FireAssociated Press

A promotion for the new movie "The Curse of La Llorona" using traditional Mexican healers for "spiritual cleansings" before screenings is drawing strong criticism from healers and scholars.

Critics say the movie, released Friday, is based on a Mexican folktale that has nothing to do with healers known as curanderos. They say the promotion exploits traditional healing practices used by Mexicans and Mexican Americans just to sell a film.

San Diego-based curandera Grace Sesma says social media posts showing curanderos performing supposed cleansings before previews are offensive. Tonita Gonzales, an internationally known curandera based in Albuquerque, called the promotion an "outrage and an appropriation" of Mexican American culture.

Warner Bros. declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

"The Curse of La Llorona," starring Linda Cardellini and Raymond Cruz, centers on the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, a crying female spirit who takes children.

Armed Robbery Suspect Shot, Wounded In Encounter With Police – Associated Press

Albuquerque police say an armed robbery suspect who reportedly fired first was shot and wounded by at least one officer following a home invasion.

Officer Simon Drobik says the suspect is hospitalized in stable condition and that no officers were injured in the Thursday night incident.

Drobik says the suspect was shot during an encounter with police after officers responded to a call about a door being kicked in and the occupant being robbed at gunpoint.

According to Drobik, at least one witness told police that the suspect fired first.

No identities were released.

Group Apologizes After Appearance By Banned Alaska ProfessorAnchorage Daily News, Associated Press

An archaeology organization has apologized for the attendance of a banned Alaska professor at its annual meeting.

The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday that the written apology earlier that day from the Society for American Archaeology followed criticism after former University of Alaska Anchorage professor David Yesner appeared at the organization's annual meeting in Albuquerque.

Yesner was banned April 8 from all University of Alaska campuses over sexual misconduct allegations made by nine women that an investigation found to be credible.

The organization says it removed the retired anthropology professor from the April 12 meeting.

A society spokeswoman did not immediately return calls from the newspaper, but a statement says the organization is responding to members' concerns.

Yesner could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

EPA Seeks Bids To Clean Up Uranium Mines In Southwest - Associated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking proposals from small businesses to clean up abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation and in northwestern New Mexico.

About 140 people attended a workshop held this week in Window Rock to learn more about the $220 million project.

The EPA expects to award multiple contracts to businesses with less than 750 employees.

The funding comes from a roughly $1 billion settlement with the successor of a company that mined the region. Companies extracted nearly 30 million tons of uranium for Cold War weaponry.

The EPA says it has funding to assess and clean up about 220 of the more than 520 abandoned mines.

Contract proposals are due May 28 for work on the reservation and around Grants, New Mexico.

New Mexico Panel Surprises Facebook With $39M Utility Bill - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A powerful New Mexico regulatory authority is requiring the state's largest utility to bill Facebook $39 million for a new transmission line construction for its data center — a move the social media giant says it was not expecting.

The Public Regulation Commission's on Tuesday ordered the Public Service Company of New Mexico to charge Facebook for nearly half the cost of the $85 million transmission project for its New Mexico data center that opened this year, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Commission members, who voted 5-0 to approve the order, contend that the utility cannot bill ratepayers for the transmission project because the line will not benefit retail customers. It only helps Facebook and wholesale electric operators who need the transmission capacity to supply renewable energy to other markets, the com[mission said.

But the Menlo Park, California-based Facebook said that the ruling could affect its long-term operations in the state, raising costs and putting in doubt plans to use 100 percent renewable energy to run the facility, Facebook said.

State officials and economic development professionals have said the decision could hurt New Mexico's efforts to attract more large companies.

Water Managers Expect Improved Spring Runoff  - Associated Press

Federal water managers in New Mexico say cities and farmers along the Rio Grande can expect above average spring runoff this year.

Officials with the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local water agencies gathered Thursday in Albuquerque to go over forecasts and predictions about how much water will be released from reservoirs along the river.

They're more optimistic, following a year in which record-low flows threatened to leave the Rio Grande dry through New Mexico's most populous region.

April's streamflow forecast predicts flows into El Vado Reservoir will be 142% of average. That's up from just 18% last year.

Jennifer Faler with the Bureau of Reclamation's Albuquerque office calls it a complete turnaround.

The runoff also is expected to improve storage supplies and help the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow.

Regulators Ratify Settlement In Racino Case Associated Press

The New Mexico Racing Commission has ratified a proposed settlement aimed at ending a legal dispute related to the state's sixth and final license for a horse racetrack and casino.

The commission voted to approve the agreement with Hidalgo Downs after meeting behind closed doors Thursday. The commission did not make any public statements other than to say a special meeting would be called April 30 to discuss the racino license.

It would be up to a state district judge to approve the settlement.

Attorneys for the four other companies vying for the license want to intervene in the case.

They've raised concerns that the proposed settlement was presented to the court weeks ago without first being voted on by the full commission. They questioned whether open meeting laws could have been violated.

720 Migrants Arrested In New Mexico In 24 HoursAssociated Press

More than 700 migrants have been taken into custody in less than 24 hours along the border in southern New Mexico.

The U.S. Border Patrol says a group of 230 people was encountered at the Antelope Wells port of entry after midnight Tuesday. A second group of more than 360 people was reported minutes later just west of Mount Cristo Rey near Sunland Park.

Another group of more than 130 people later came through Antelope Wells.

Authorities say the El Paso sector, which includes part of West Texas and all of New Mexico, documented over 1,800 apprehensions on Tuesday.

The surge caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico after a militia group posted a video of the migrants.

The civil rights organization contends the group had no authority to ask the migrants to stop while Border Patrol was called. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the militia group is stopping and detaining migrant families at gunpoint before turning them over to Border Patrol agents. 

Marvin Menzies Joins Men's Basketball Staff At Grand Canyon - Associated Press

Former New Mexico State and UNLV head basketball coach Marvin Menzies is joining Grand Canyon University as an associate head coach.

The Phoenix school announced Thursday that Menzies will be part of head coach Dan Majerle's staff.

Grand Canyon has won at least 20 games for four consecutive seasons and reached the past two WAC Tournament championship games.

The 57-year-old Menzies had a 198-111 record from 2007-16 at New Mexico State, leading the Aggies to four consecutive NCAA tournament bids from 2012-15.